Category Archives: 1996

Rocks In The Attic #839: Space – ‘Spiders’ (1996)

RITA#839If Liverpool band Space had arrived just five years later, they might have stood more of a chance. As it stands, their 1996 debut came out just in time to catch the Britpop wave. Their stronger, second album Tin Planet – a real achievement in songwriting and production – was the one that lost out. Released in 1998 among the other dregs of Britpop – Embrace’s The Good Will Out, Pulp’s This Is Hardcore and The Bluetones’ Return To The Last Chance Saloon – it might not have had much in the way of competition, but it was certainly a dull time for British music; the start of the comedown years.

Space’s quirky sound is a real mixing pot of influences, partly driven by an admiration for Cyprus Hill’s bass-driven grooves and use of sampling. Vocalist and (on this record) bassist Tommy Scott is a huge fan of soundtracks and scores, hence the ‘universal’ feel of the lyrics. Guitarist Jamie Murphy is a typical Britpop / Indie kid (and looks the most like he could be in any guitar band of the mid-90s). Keyboard player Franny Griffiths handles the samples and synthesisers, providing the genre-crossing, EDM-friendly sound that sets them apart from the rest of Britpop. Drummer Andy Parle, who sadly died in unexplained circumstances in 2009, completes the line-up.

RITA#839aMost people will recognise Female Of The Species, the latino, sample-driven song about female dominance. Initially used as the theme song to the British TV show, Cold Feet, it charted at #14 in the UK charts, and remains the band’s signature piece.

If anything, the album quickly overstays its welcome at a far too long 52 minutes. As a result there are three or four songs that feel tacked on to side two that could easily be expunged. Tin Planet is also a little baggy in this area (49 minutes), and suggests that the band were not great at editing themselves.

Unfortunately, Tin Planet never made it to vinyl. Spiders has only been issued once on the format for its 1996 release, and for a picture-disc reissue in 2016. I had to trawl Discogs for this expensive first pressing, which has a weird misprint on the second side causing the needle to sway from side to side while tracking. Given the eclectic sound of the band, it’s hard to spot the slightly phased sound from anything they’ve done to the songs themselves.

Hit: Female Of The Species

Hidden Gem: Money


Rocks In The Attic #653: Various Artists – ‘Trainspotting (O.S.T.)’ (1996)

RITA#653V/O:      Choose life. Choose scoring tickets to the New Zealand premiere of T2: TRAINSPOTTING, with Danny Boyle in attendance. Choose taking along your Trainspotting soundtrack in the hope that you *just might* get it signed. Choose being in the right fucking place at the right fucking time. Choose having a chat with Danny and telling him you’re so glad he didn’t film the second Trainspotting novel (‘Porno’). Choose Danny replying “Yeah, it’s not one of his best novels at the end of the day”. Choose mentioning that Hollywood has done that story since anyway. Choose him catching your drift and saying “Yeah, you’re right, a couple of years ago there was a glut of films with a similar premise, like ‘We Made A Porno'”. Choose a firm handshake. Choose walking away a very happy man. Choose it all!

My favourite moment of 2017 was meeting director Danny Boyle at the New Zealand premiere of T2: Trainspotting. I’ve come a long way in twenty or so years of record collecting, from having nothing autographed aside from a Clint Boon LP, to having a couple of early ZZ Top records fully signed by the band, the soundtrack to The Hateful Eight signed by Quentin Tarantino and Zoe Bell, the soundtrack to Death Proof also signed by Zoe Bell, and now this – the soundtrack to Boyle’s 1996 breakthrough, Trainspotting.

I’m not 100% sure how Newmarket’s Broadway cinema manages to attract these big-name Hollywood directors – it was the same venue at which I met Tarantino a year earlier – but I hope they continue the trend.

The Tarantino event was advertised as a meet and greet, so getting something signed was almost guaranteed, but the T2: Trainspotting event was only supposed to be a showing of the film introduced by Boyle. I took my copy of the soundtrack along, just in case.

When we arrived at the cinema, Boyle was being interviewed by the local TV station at the entrance to the foyer. The place was packed, with people making good use of the free drinks and food that were being offered by hospitality staff. Our small group – myself, my wife, my brother and a friend from work – found a spot among the crowd.

I glanced over at Boyle – now being interviewed by a different TV station – and thought that the chance of getting an autograph was slim. But then I saw him autographing something for somebody, and I took my chance.

I approached with my soundtrack and Sharpie in hand, expecting to be shooed away. A member of his team turned to greet me.

“Hi there, would you like Danny to sign that for you?”

This was going to be easier than expected.

“Yes, please!”

She tapped him on the shoulder just as he was wrapping up an interview with Kate Rodger, the TV3 film critic who pronounces Gal Godot as ‘Gal Gad-eau’ as though she’s French (Rodger is seemingly incapable of doing any basic research, let alone use the fucking internet).

RITA#653bDanny turns around.

“Hi there,” he says in his soft northern drawl.

We have our quick chat and he signs my record. The best thing about being with friends is that they all got their phones out and so I have a good photographic document of the moment.

Of course, in my nervousness, I forgot to tell Danny I was from Oldham, just a dozen miles away from his native Radciffe. I also forgot to tell him how much I appreciated him for reinventing the zombie genre with 28 Days Later, or how if you watch 127 Hours in reverse it turns into a lovely film about an amputee who finds his missing arm in the desert.

Most importantly, I didn’t tell him that his opening ceremony to the 2012 London Olympics was one of the few things that has made my heart truly ache with homesickness.

Hit: Lust For Life – Iggy Pop

Hidden Gem: Deep Blue Day – Brian Eno


Rocks In The Attic #644: Ocean Colour Scene – ‘Moseley Shoals’ (1996)

RITA#644When you go and see a band that you haven’t seen since your youth, there’s a brief moment when you have to suspend disbelief. The group walking out on stage are twenty years older than when you last saw them. Hairlines may have receded slightly, waistlines may have expanded slightly. But in general, you can recognise them as older, wiser versions of the young men (or ladies) you knew from your teenage years.

When Ocean Colour Scene walked out on stage last week at Auckland’s Powerstation, I recognised guitarist Steve Craddock immediately. Still of slight build, his receding hairline further illuminating his light-bulb head was the only sign of aging. I recognised the drummer – Oscar Harrison – too. The bass player had changed into a completely different person though.

Where’s the singer, I thought, as one of the big, burly roadies walked up to the mic just as Craddock ripped into The Riverboat Song. “I see double, up ahead…” the man spat into the mic. He sounded enough like Simon Fowler, but it couldn’t be him. I’ve let my subscription to the Ocean Colour Scene monthly newsletter lapse a long time ago, but maybe Fowler died and they got this guy in from one of their tribute bands, like how INXS replaced Michael Hutchence.

He did sound like Simon Fowler though, this guy. He might look like a butcher, but he had exactly the same soulful voice I remembered from Moseley Shoals. I resisted the urge to get my phone out to check if he had the same face as the young man I remembered from twenty years ago.

By the time The Riverboat Song had finished, to a long, sustained round of applause, I was convinced it was actually him. I felt slightly ashamed for thinking any different, but I was just taken aback at how different he looked. In the ‘90s I remember him being a lithe, Jagger-esque frontman. But in the space of twenty years, as a friend pointed out, he had gone the way of Van Morrison.

RITA#644fA couple of songs in, Fowler announced he was gay – “I used to be quite camp when I was younger, I prefer to call myself gay now” – something you don’t usually hear at a gig. A brave move, I thought, considering the ignorant, numbskull mindset of your average Britpop fan. As might be expected, a drunken idiot behind me made a homophobic comment.

Perhaps Craddock looked the same because he’s been in regular employment, another friend suggested, with the implication that Fowler has spent the intervening years reminiscing about TFI Friday over a box of Jaffa Cakes. But Ocean Colour Scene haven’t been out of work – they’ve been releasing studio albums regularly since the ‘90s, averaging one every three years up to 2013’s Painting. Admittedly they haven’t bothered the charts since their Britpop heyday, so it’s hardly a surprise that they feel like returning heroes.

RITA#644gWhat a great show the band put on, once I was sure of who I was watching. Starting their set with The Riverboat Song? What a banger! And what balls! A lesser band would have saved it to their encore (in fact, I was hoping they would have played it a second time at the end of the show). Oasis and Blur may have been the kings of Britpop, but this single is as strong as anything those bands produced in their prime.

They played through most of Moseley Shoals – a record I have very fond memories of, from University – plus a handful of songs from third album Marchin’ Already. There wasn’t too much I didn’t recognise, so I’m guessing they had wisely avoided much of the material from those post-1990s records.

One of my favourite Britpop-era singles, the bonkers Hundred Mile High City, was wheeled out towards the end of their set, before they encored with The Day We Caught The Train. I used to love this band. I still do.

Hit: The Riverboat Song

Hidden Gem: 40 Past Midnight

Rocks In The Attic #434: Placebo – ‘Placebo’ (1996)

RITA#434Twenty years on, Placebo suddenly sound very dated. Their brand of edgy, off-kilter rock was pioneered by the likes of Manic Street Preachers (on The Holy Bible), Radiohead and from lesser-knowns like Dark Star. At the time, Placebo seemed like the future. They were dangerous. They had a chap with a lady’s haircut wearing eyeliner. They were just three, making the noise of four or five.

But in the shadow of a band like Muse – a band who did this topsy-turvy future rock arguably better, and was more successful – Placebo sound a little redundant. They almost sound a little like a nostalgia act. Remember the ‘90s? We used to watch Friends and TFI Friday, laugh at the Spice Girls and drink lots of snakebite? Placebo was a core element of all that.

On one hand there was Britpop – Oasis and their imitators (Ocean Colour Scene, Embrace, Space, Cast, ad infinitum), and then on the other hand there was bands like Placebo; bands which promised that the bland indie bogeys just might not win the war. Looking around in the good year 2015, aside from a few successful indie revivalists (Kaiser Chiefs, Coldplay, Elbow) and crossover acts (Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand) I’m claiming a win for the heavier end of the wedge.

Hit: Nancy Boy

Hidden Gem: Come Home

Rocks In The Attic #361: Stone Temple Pilots – ‘Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop’ (1996)

RITA#361I used to be a big pusher of this album. Released to very little fanfare in 1996, the band didn’t even promote the album because eternally troubled singer Scott Weiland was convicted of buying crack cocaine, and spent a year on probation when they should have been out on tour. So I saw it upon myself to spread the word. I especially tried to push Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart on people, thinking it to be one of the best things the band had ever recorded.

With the benefit of hindsight, nineteen years later Tiny Music… doesn’t sound as good as I thought it did back then. It’s nowhere near as strong as the band’s first and second albums – but I still think it got a bad deal. If they had toured the album, and if Atlantic Records had supported it a bit more, would it be a different story? Who knows?

As a run of albums, these three records – Core, Stone Temple Pilots (or Purple) and Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop – are a great little body of work. Unfortunately the band went downhill straight after. You can even hear the cracks start to appear on this album – some of it sounds rushed, which it probably was if the singer’s around the corner from the studio buying crack.

Regardless of how I see the album in today’s light, I still regard Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart as one of my favourite ever songs. It’s got everything a rock song should have – a crashing, jazz chord intro, a staccato, shuffling rhythm on muted guitar strings, some nice vocal effects making it sound like there are two Weilands singing the song, a great jazzy guitar solo – I dig it – a true hidden gem of ‘90s rock.

I have all of the first three STP albums on coloured vinyl; this one is on a beautiful blue marble vinyl. The other plus of having it on vinyl is that the great opening instrumental, Press Play is extended from 1:21 to 4:27. What a groove!

Hit: Trippin’ On A Hole In A Paper Heart

Hidden Gem: Daisy

Rocks In The Attic #341: Manic Street Preachers – ‘Everything Must Go’ (1996)

RITA#341I’ve been listening to the Manics a lot recently. I tend to listen to Pandora at work, the online radio station where you can tailor-make your own channel. The Manic Street Preachers channel throws up some good stuff, and some great related artists. I find most of the time though, it just shows how fantastic the Manics used to be, and how fantastically average they are now. This album signals the end of them being a relevant force in music, and it was all downhill from here.

I was in my first year at University when this was released in 1996. I wasn’t a Manics fan at the time, so the band sort of passed me by until I discovered the first three albums a year or so later (all off the back of hearing Faster from The Holy Bible – the highlight song from their greatest album). But I remember hearing A Design For Life a lot during my first freshers term, and seeing them perform it on things like TFI Friday.

I eventually got around to hearing the album, and it’s a solid album, nothing bad about it, but a huge step down from The Holy Bible. You can see why all the Britpop kids went for it at the time – all big choruses and a stadium rock, wall of sound production. In fact, as a first album by a new band (which to a lot of people, it would have been), it’s great. Maybe that’s what they should have done – in a Joy Division / New Order kind of way – rather than continuing as their established name, despite the loss of an integral member of the band.

Richey Edwards? Fantastic lyricist, terrible guitarist. Left his car near a known suicide spot on the eve of an American tour to support The Holy Bible (shades of Ian Curtis there). I love The Holy Bible so much – for me it’s been my favourite album released during my lifetime. I love everything about it – everything that’s dark and depressing about it, and the very real fact that maybe something had to happen to the tortured soul of Richey Edwards for it to be made. All true art is suffering, and the lyrics of The Holy Bible paint a picture of somebody having a hard time coping with the realities of life.

The beauty of The Holy Bible is why the big dumb pop sound on Everything Must Go annoys me so much. With The Holy Bible, the Manics were an edgy post-punk rock band (via Guns ‘N Roses and Metallica). With Everything Must Go, they turned towards the anthemic, everyman qualities of Springsteen, with a sound perfect for the hordes of pissed-up mad-fer-it lads, bored with Oasis and too ignorant to understand anything beyond the lyrical complexities of ‘I know a girl called Elsa / She’s into Alka Seltzer’.

Terrible. The beginning of the end. What a waste of a once-great band.

Hit: A Design For Life

Hidden Gem: Small Black Flowers That Grow In The Sky

Rocks In The Attic #72: Daft Punk – ‘Homework’ (1996)

Rocks In The Attic #72: Daft Punk - ‘Homework’ (1996)I can’t remember buying this. I definitely remember buying the 12” of Around The World, which was always something I’d play first when DJing, while I sorted everything out in the booth; but this always seems to have been in my collection.

There are some tunes on this album – the aforementioned Around The World is probably the best known, but Da Funk is probably the other one most people know. Like most ‘House’ music, it’s hardly something you’d put on the record player and chill out to – it’s meant to be played loud, and preferably in a club.

I remember at some point buying the DVD – or was it the VHS? – of the music video collection that accompanies this album. Those videos probably go some way to explain how much Daft Punk were in the zeitgeist when they first came out. If you can get music videos made, of your two best songs, by people like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, you must be doing something right.

Hit: Around The World

Hidden Gem: Daftendirekt